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On the road to the Sally Gap, there are spectacular views of the surrounding blanket bog and the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gap is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gaps is a cross-road that leads you North to Dublin, West to Blessington, South to Glendalough or East to Roundwood. The Sally Gap got its road after the Irish rebellion of 1798. It was built by British Army forces looking to flush rebels from the hills, and to this day is known as the Military Road. Whatever about giving the army a better view of the rebels, the Military Road certainly provides an enviable view of some of Ireland’s most filmed scenery. Highlights of this winding, twisting feat of engineering include the Glencree valley, the dark waters of Lough Tay, Kippure Mountain and Glenmacnass Waterfall.
WICKLOW MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Wicklow Mountains National Park covers part of a mountain range that extends over most of County Wicklow on the east coast of Ireland. The upper slopes and rounded peaks are blanketed with heath and bog. The open vistas are interrupted only by forestry plantations and the winding mountain roads. Fast-flowing streams descend into the deep lakes of the wooded valleys and continue their course into the surrounding lowlands.
The primary purpose of Wicklow Mountains National Park is the conservation of local biodiversity and landscape. The Park is also an invaluable recreational space for locals and visitors alike. Over one million visits are estimated to be made each year. The most visited area is the scenic Glendalough Valley where the ancient monastic settlement of St. Kevin is located. Escape from the summer crowds is possible for those coming properly equipped to explore the uplands on foot, where a sense of wilderness and isolation can readily be found.
Glendalough ("The Glen of the Two Lakes"), is the site upon which St. Kevin founded a unique monastic settlement in the 6th century. Most of what remains of the settlement is in ruins but the Round Tower at Glendalough, built as a refuge from marauding Vikings, is over a 1000 years old and is remarkably well preserved. The site itself is set next to two clear water lakes beneath the sheer cliffs of a deep glacial valley. It is one of the most serene and beautiful places in all Ireland and it is easy to see why the monks picked it for a place of prayer and contemplation. There are a myriad of walking trails throughout the area making it a truly invigorating place to spend the day.
Powerscourt Waterfall is the tallest in Ireland at 121 metres (397 feet). Located just 5 kilometres from Powerscourt House, the 7th Viscount of Powerscourt established a deer park at the waterfall. In 1858 he successfully introduced the Japanese Sika deer to Ireland. All deer in the Wicklow Mountains originated with the Powerscourt herd. Driving from the Powerscourt House towards the waterfall, visitors are surrounded by beautiful beech, oak, larch and pine trees. There are also giant redwood or sequoia trees. Though native to California, these were planted at Powerscourt sometime after 1860. Living for up to 4,000 years and growing to 250 feet high, the trees at Powerscourt are still youngsters! Fans of 'Vikings' on the History Channel may recognize the falls and other sights at Powerscourt - a major filming location for the show.
POWERSCOURT HOUSE AND GARDENS
One mile long and lined by over 2,000 beech trees, even the avenue leading to the Powerscourt House echoes the magnificence of the whole estate. In addition the 47 acres of gardens are remarkable for their grandeur of scale, at the same time combining great delicacy and refinement of detail. The house was gutted by fire in 1974 but recently has been reborn as an exceptional tourist destination. An exhibition brings to life the rich history of the estate, while the double height Georgian ballroom has been restored and hosts weddings and corporate events. The house is now home to the best of Irish design in gifts, clothes, and furniture in the Avoca Stores and the Interiors Gallery. You can also treat yourself to a dish from the Avoca Cookbook in the Terrace Cafe. The gardens at Powerscourt, recently voted Number 3 in the entire world by National Geographic, were laid out in two main periods. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodelled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the south. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created.